Kindness is one of the most valuable virtues. That’s because it’s a source of satisfaction, both for those who practice it and those who benefit from it. The history of humanity is full of cruel episodes, but also kind acts that have often completely changed the course of events and transformed the lives of many people.
One of the best-known acts of kindness was that of Oskar Schindler, whose actions inspired the famous movie, Schindler’s List. This man managed to save the lives of about 1,200 Jews during World War II, putting himself at risk at the same time. For this reason, he was given the title of Righteous Among the Nations in 1963.
Another episode in which goodness shone through occurred in 2020. The Irish donated a large amount of money to the Navajo and Hopi families, two American Indian communities, who were greatly impoverished by the health crisis. They did so in response to the generosity of these communities, who in 1847, despite being extremely poor, collected $170 and sent it to Ireland to help during The Great Famine.
Anthropologist Oliver Curry, from the University of Oxford (UK), argues that kindness is rooted in our essence as a species since the human being is a social animal.
“Modern science has not yet produced a calming medicine as effective as a few kind words.”
Some curious facts about kindness
It’s said that kindness is contagious. Indeed, it seems we tend to be more sensitive to the needs of others when we live in environments where kindness, consideration, and generosity prevail. The well-being produced by these behaviors is enough to inspire, stimulate and reinforce kind behaviors.
Kindness is a virtue of happy people. It’s also possible to express it the other way around: happiness leads to kindness. As a rule, being kind to others makes us feel better about ourselves. At the same time, this nourishes our feelings of joy and well-being. The expert, Richard Layard, also from the University of Oxford, claims that “If you want to feel good, do good”.
Genetics and kindness
It’s claimed that kindness is also related to genetics. Scientists from the University of Bonn (Germany) conducted an investigation in this regard. They found that individuals with a specific gene, known as COMT, are twice as kind as those without this genetic component.
Likewise, psychologist Gary Lewis, from the University of Edinburgh (UK) conducted another study that was published in Biology Letters. The researchers studied the behavior of nearly 1,000 identical and non-identical twins. They took into account both the genetic component and the family environment.
The results indicated that, in the female twins, the genetic factor influenced 48 percent of their prosocial or kind behaviors. Meanwhile, in male twins, that influence was only 20 percent. Although the study isn’t conclusive, it does suggest the importance of the genetic component.
Furthermore, it’s been detected that kindness and altruistic behaviors are associated with a specific area of the brain called the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex.
The rabbit effect
The Rabbit Effect is the title of a book by Columbia University psychiatrist, Kelli Harding. This work was inspired by a laboratory accident in New Zealand. It happened in 1978 when Dr. Robert Nerem was conducting an experiment with rabbits.
The scientist proposed to study the relationship between a high-fat diet and heart health in a group of white rabbits. After a while, the researchers analyzed the amounts of fat deposits in the animals’ blood vessels. Most of the rabbits had the expected results: high cholesterol levels. However, a small group of them were healthier than the others.
The surprising result led them to explore several hypotheses. In the end, they concluded that this anomalous result was due to the fact that the group of healthy rabbits had been in the care of a postdoctoral student who’d been really affectionate with them. These results have been replicated. That’s how powerful the force of kindness is.